If, like me, you suffer from asthma (or other respiratory ailments), you've probably been hurting more than most on account of the fires. Smoke and ash weigh heavily on even unhindered lungs, so we've compiled the following tips to help you stay healthy.
At 6 o'clock this morning, I was a little put off when I stepped outside to let the puppy do her business and noticed the fine coating of ash that had settled during the night. As a friend who just returned from several years' living abroad remarked this morning on Facebook, it's literally raining ash in some areas. If you're asthmatic, the following techniques and remedies can provide some relief, but sufferers of other conditions such as emphysema might also find some useful information.
• Remember your inhaler
This might seem like a no-brainer, but depending on the severity of your asthma and how often you suffer attacks, your inhaler might be tucked away handily in your back pocket at all times or stowed away in the bottom of a drawer full of expired bottles of ibuprofen. Should you be more inclined toward the latter scenario and find yourself having an attack at work without your albuterol, well, you're going to be uncomfortable.
• Drink coffee
Someone shared this little trick with me when I was a child, as a sort of quick-fix emergency solution for when you don't have an inhaler. The thinking here, as I understand it, is that caffeine causes your body to produce adrenaline, which causes your airways to open up. The relief from this is short-lived, however, and you should take the time to look for a solution with better staying power before the inevitable crash. Also, the same adrenaline that helps relieve attacks can also cause attacks in certain people. Spicy foods are another option. You can order up Thai hot or pay a visit to the United States of Chileland, but your mileage, as they say, will vary.
• High-efficiency particulate air filter
This recommendation comes from the New Mexico Environment Department and New Mexico Department of Health. Standard air-conditioner filters have pores too large to filter smoke. For the same reason, swamp coolers should be avoided. Installing a HEPA filter can help reduce particle inflow into the home. NMED and DOH also recommend not trying to vacuum up particles that do get in, as vacuuming stirs up resting particles and generally causes more harm than good.
• Avoid exertion and remain indoors
Exercise is good, but exercise also increases your breathing rate, which causes you to inhale more smoke and ash. Even if smoke isn't visible in your area, the air quality may still have taken a hit, and it might be time to put that gym membership to use. If smoke in your area is so dense as to seriously impair visibility, the air is probably hazardous, and you should consider relocating to a less afflicted area until conditions improve.
Stay tuned to SFReporter.com for more information on fire conditions.